A Summery Summary - The Reykjavik Grapevine

A Summery Summary

A Summery Summary

Published August 17, 2014

It's Such A Peaceful Place Until You Speak The Language

Haukur Már Helgason
Photos by
HMH

It's Such A Peaceful Place Until You Speak The Language

In case you missed reports, while traveling or otherwise enjoying Iceland’s ten days of summer, here are the latest news in brief, a summary of the last week or two.

Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð warns that, should fresh meat imports be allowed, a virus, common in foreign meat-products, might cause Icelanders to behave like foreigners. The populations of Britain and Norway still seem to behave normally, as they remain relatively Toxoplasma-free. That was the day after the Minister complained, on Facebook, that the Icelandic media did not pay due attention to Iceland’s weightlifting champions. It seems a countryman just won a strongman-competition, just like they used to do in the 80’s, when everything was normal. One of the country’s most respected economists, educated at Harvard, before being hired as specialist at the International Monetary Fund, keeps publishing what has become an extensive series of blog posts comparing the numerical values of medieval literature and Bible verses, pointing out that the title of the Eddas plus the name of the author of Njál’s saga minus the last words of Egil’s saga equal the sermon on the Mount minus something Socrates once said. Which, evidently, means something. The Capital Area Police chief resigned and may have made insinuations about the Minister of the Interior by tweeting a link to a Beatles-song on YouTube. A propitious, two-books old poet gets a tattoo, in Times New Roman, to demand the Minister’s resignation. The public prosecutor pressed charges against the Minister’s assistant, to which the Minister herself responds by firing the assistant and declaring that she will give up her powers over the country’s courts and prosecution, but remain Minister, presumably of traffic and roadwork, while her now former assistant awaits his verdict. He says he is confident that he will be found not-guilty, which goes without saying since the document that he allegedly leaked to the media was not even an informal memo but merely an informal summary, and, as he reasoned himself, the police has already spent an abnormal amount of time on the case while many worse crimes are committed in the country. Authorities have finally acknowledged the criticism directed, consistently for almost a decade, at the Republic’s aluminum-smelter-carpeting policy, by signing an agreement and starting preparations for for a silicon-plant, already underway as the country’s latest mega-industrial partnership. Yes, there will be pollution, they admit, but only here: you can use silicon to produce solar panels so, if you look at the big picture, the factory is only part of our ongoing humanitarian and ecological effort. And it’s always already too late to protest anyway. Imposing a boycott on the West, Russian authorities acknowledge that the concept does not really apply to Iceland, by leaving it out of its black list. The Left gets upset at not being blacklisted by Russia, while conservatives, including former-socialist leader, now President, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, rejoice at the exceptional opportunities possibly involved. The case of the passenger plane shot down over Ukraine was somewhat clarified, if that means muddled, when the President’s office referred to it, in a statement, as an air-accident. One thing may have nothing to do with the other. Accidents keep happening in Gaza, in Syria and in Iraq, to which Icelandic authorities respond responsibly, declaring that thirteen Syrian refugees will soon be allowed into the country. Countering people’s fear of over-population it has been made public that six of those will be children. Meanwhile, a million tourists are anticipated, this year or next, which is good news, although they still spend less than hoped for. National income remains satisfactory, though, as long as volcanic hotspots stay intermittently active and the modest classes stay modest. A few months back, a hospital director, which in this case means the hospital director, because there’s really just one full-size hospital around, resigned in protest against cuts in the hospital’s public funding. In recent years, scores of MDs have reportedly left the country, but some staff still remains. Last week, the chairman of the State budget committee scolded that staff for overrunning the budget by obstinately treating patients in accordance to law. The chairman says that various hospital departments will remain open, however, as long as the country’s modest classes are willing to meet the budget’s needs and not get sick a lot while they submit their homes to tourists, by way of Airbnb, evacuations, re-planning, refurbishing and hotel-construction, as is seen fit, on a case-by-case basis. The country’s visitors may be stingy but are still worth, at least, their weight in cod. Recent evidence reveals that Icelandic nazis were more numerous, organized and influential in the 1930’s than hitherto publicized. That was before the Allies invaded, the party was dismantled and its members joined the Independence junta, sorry, party. The former chairman of the Independence Party, Reykjavík city mayor, Prime minister and Central bank manager these days reiterates, as editor of the fishing industry’s newsletter Morgunblaðið, that foreigners make lousy company, whereas he does not. To the relief of the modest classes, if relief means gloom and modesty means frustration, former Forbes-500 member Björgólfur Thor Björgólfsson declared that he had finally settled all his post-2008 debts and, having restored his repute in the world of financing, is now, unlike the more reckless among the country’s former billionaires, back in business. The first sensible discussion of Iceland’s future for decades surfaces around a political party established to fight for a single cause: that the Republic be terminated and Iceland reunited with Norway, as its 20th constituency. Icelanders would retain their language, says the party’s founding leader, but might start referring to it as Old Norse. He points out that the costs of an isolated currency supposedly add up to around one third of the country’s total income. Counter-arguments include that beer is even more expensive in Oslo than it is in Reykjavík. The so far relatively grounded and reasonable character of this discussion is supposed to last as long as the idea is not taken all that seriously.

On August 16, Police authorities declared a state of uncertainty around the volcanic peak Bárðarbunga. An eruption is said unlikely but possible. As may be gathered from the above, the declaration is redundant: locals already presume a state of uncertainty in all things. As PM Sigmundur Davíð said about the virus that changes people’s behavior, which is acutally a parasite and probably doesn’t, all of this does sound like some sort of fiction. Most things seems unlikely but anything is obviously possible. Midsummer’s night a few weeks behind schedule. Alþingi will come together again soon, for its 144th season, and, presumably, reinstate order.

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